In recent years, health and wellness have become more of a central focus in people’s lives. And with this shift, so has our understanding of the extent of their benefits.
Research has already identified the connections between diet and health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Now, a new study out of Australia suggests a significant connection between nutrition and depression.
The study, published in BMC Medicine, found dietary improvement to be an effective strategy for treating depression. Dubbed the ‘SMILES’ (Supporting the Modification of Lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States) trial, the study followed 67 people—all of whom had low intakes of fiber, lean protein, and produce, and high intakes of processed foods—over the course of 12 weeks.
Throughout the study, one group received regular nutritional counseling and followed a Mediterranean-like diet (rich in whole grains, vegetables, lean meats, and olive oil), while cutting out the processed stuff. The second group received regular social support in the form of interest or activity groups.
After 12 weeks, the group that improved their actual diets showed “significantly greater improvements” in multiple evaluations of their depression and symptoms than the control group. The researchers suggest healthcare providers promote nutritional improvement as a worthwhile factor in treatment plans for depression.
Given that the 2014-2015 Australian Healthy Survey revealed that fewer than 4 percent of the population consumed adequate vegetables and legumes (a 2013 report by the CDC found that 8.9 percent of Americans consumed adequate vegetables), the results of the ‘SMILES’ trial seem widely relevant.